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Nerve damage (neuropathy)

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Sometimes, diabetes can damage the nerves which connect your brain to the rest of your body. This is most likely to affect extremities like fingers and toes, but can also have an effect on other parts of the body. Symptoms of neuropathy can include impotence, diarrhoea, poor digestion, and fainting. No-one truly knows the cause of neuropathy, but evidence suggests that hyperglycaemia is an important factor.

When nerves are damaged by diabetes, they can either become less or more sensitive. Less sensitive nerves don’t send feelings of pain, heat, or cold to the brain as easily, and you could also feel a sense of heaviness or numbness. Nerves which are more sensitive may cause feelings of pain, heat, numbness, or tingling from the weight of clothing or sheets. These symptoms usually come and go.

Depending on which nerves are affected, Neuropathic symptoms can vary. For example, if it’s the stomach nerves, you might experience nausea, or vomiting. If it’s your bladder, it might manifest itself as urinary retention.

The London Diabetes Centre have now implemented the first quantitative screening service in the UK for diabetic neuropathy.

The full Neuropathy Test protocol includes quantitative vibrametry, warm and cold thermal thresholds (to test the c and alpha delta fibres respectively), and cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy test.

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